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In this issue:
HeartCare Midwest Shows What Doctors Can Do
Should Doctors Wear White?
In the best practices: Spotlight on Ohio Orthopedic Center of Excellence
Q & A: Building Patient Volume
User's Corner: Wait Times in the Reception Area & Exam Room - A Regional Comparison
HeartCare Midwest Shows What Doctors Can Do
Thriving in a highly competitive marketplace, HeartCare Midwest was already popular with patients - survey scores in February 2009 placed the 31-physician practice comfortably in the upper quartiles of the Cardiology database.
At the same time, the leadership team knew that Cardiologists everywhere were concentrating on patient satisfaction as a key practice-building strategy, and that standing still was tantamount to falling behind.
HeartCare Midwest physicians also .knew that provider scores exert a huge "halo" effect on every other survey score.  (Findings from a SullivanLuallin beta study had shown t.hat, when sixteen doctors raised their average survey scores by .25, they produced a statistically significant increase for all other questions on the survey.)*
A seminar for the physicians emphasized proven behavioral techniques for excelling at Customer Service, and the physicians committed to do even better.  Here's what they achieved in less than six months:




Willingness to listen carefully to you



Taking time to answer your questions



Amount of time spent with you



Explaining things in a way you could understand



Instructions regarding medication/follow-up care



The thoroughness of the exam



Advice given to you on ways to stay healthy



Would you recommend this physician to others?



Average scores rose from 4.62 to 4.81.  The physicians at HeartCare Midwest proved that, even when survey scores are near the top of the five-point scale, doctors can lead their practice toward substantial improvements.
*Please let us know if you'd like to see the results of the beta study; it might come in handy when you're talking with your doctors about Customer Service.
Should Doctors Wear White?

Doctor-LabCoatThese days there's a lot of conjecture regarding doctors and other providers wearing lab coats while seeing patients in the office.  A study reported in the American Journal of Medicine (November, 2005) seems to indicate that there is a preference among patients for the white garb. 

The objective of the study was to determine whether doctor apparel is an important factor in the level of physician trust and confidence among patients.  Researchers polled 400 patients (mean age 52.4 years) in the waiting room of an internal medicine practice.  Respondents were asked look at pictures of physicians in four different dress styles, then discuss their preference for the doctors clothing styles and their willingness to discuss sensitive issues.

Results of the research showed an overwhelming preference for professional attire with white coat (76.3%) followed by surgical scrubs (10.2%), business attire (8.8%) and casual clothes (4.7%).

With all of the focus on the potential for MRSA contamination and the push to eliminate ties and lab coats, to meet patient expectations, it might make better sense just to wash the lab coats more often!

In the best practices... Spotlight on
Ohio Orthopedic Center of Excellence

Medical AssistantsKeeping wait times to a minimum is a tough challenge, but one easily met by Ohio Orthopedic Center of Excellence in Upper Arlington, Ohio.  They're among the top five highest-rated medical groups in the MGMA-SullivanLuallin database on the question, "Waiting time in the reception area."
We asked Kathie Dodds, Director of Clinical Services, for the secret to their success.  As Kathie said, "Survey scores don't get better by accident.  We had to admit to ourselves that there are times when you can't prevent long waits.  We decided to let patients know that we respected their time and that we cared about them."
The practice made specific changes to the way it operated including establishing a "concierge" desk in the reception area to greet and track incoming patients.  The job of "greeter" rotates among several staff members who make a point of letting arriving patients know the status of the doctor they'll be seeing.  When the staff member tells a patient that the doctor is running behind, she is sure to ask, "Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?"
Further, when a patient has had an inordinately long wait or been rescheduled more than twice, Kathie sends a hand-written apology letter.  A note to that effect is put into the practice management software so that the next time the patient comes in, s/he is treated with extra-special care.
The practice also adjusted the scheduling template to accommodate emergency walk-ins which had a positive effect.  "Perhaps, though, the best strategy we used," says Kathie, "is to unblind the survey results.  It really changed the physicians' behavior when they saw their rankings.  It beat having the staff nagging them all the time!"

Q & A: Building Patient Volume
Happy PatientWe're seeing a decline in our patient visits due to the recession and we're wondering if there are any quick tips for building the volume back up.

The ideal, low-cost, no-cost strategy for increasing word-of-mouth referrals is to make patients love you.  An easy way to convey that you care about your patients is to call them the day following their visit.  Ask how they're getting along, reassure them that they're on the road to recovery (if appropriate) and suggest that you're there to help if they need anything else.  Because so few doctors' offices make these calls, your cont
act will be totally unexpected, and will "delight" the patient.  This is also an excellent strategy for building the practice of a physician new to your practice.

Have a question you'd like our team to answer? Email us and put "Newsletter Question" in the subject line!
User's Corner:
Wait Times in the Reception Area & Exam Room -
A Regional Comparison

The MGMA-Sullivan/Luallin patient survey database says something important about regional differences in scores for "Waiting time in the reception area" and "Waiting time in the exam room."

Dr. Alt

The illustration shows each region's score for these survey questions, both of which correlate significantly with overall satisfaction and willingness to refer.  While the Southeast region scores highest for both survey questions, patients in the Northeast region are least satisfied with wait times in the reception area and exam room.

Please feel free to forward this email to your colleagues.
The SullivanLuallin Team

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